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The Tea Party. Photo provided.

Gig Pick: Tea Party at Algonquin Commons Theatre— 04.09.19

By Stephane Dubord on April 9, 2019

They’re back!

It isn’t often that a touring band comes to town for a gig, and then returns for a second show weeks later, but that’s the case for the Tea Party, who’ll be playing the Algonquin Commons Theatre tonight for the second time in as many months. And if the first show is any indication, brace yourselves.

If the first show is any indication, brace yourselves.

Usually bands that have been around, broken up and reunited tend to lose a little bit of the magic that made them special in the first place. Whether it’s an issue of chemistry, or personality, or creative differences, fences tend not to mend all that well. However in the case of the Tea Party, dare I say, they’re actually even better now than they were in their ‘prime’. The trio are still masterful instrumentalists, but the time apart seems to have allowed them to hone their crafts even more individually. The result of the sum of these improved parts is definitely a greater whole.

The trio are still masterful instrumentalists, but the time apart seems to have allowed them to hone their crafts even more individually.

The band also exudes a fun attitude on stage, venturing into a variety of covers in the middle of concert staples, from Tool’s “Sober” to Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, you just never know what twists and turns are coming. Encore closer “Sister Awake” melded into the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, then into David Bowie’s “Heroes” before coming back to the original to wind it up.

Long-time fans expecting an array of exotic instruments might be a tad bit disappointed, as for the most part they stuck to the standard guitar-bass-drums set, though frontman Jeff Martin did swap out his guitars for a middle-eastern sounding 12-string acoustic or a double-neck guitar, depending on the song. But the most exotic sound was his guitar solo on “Save Me” played with a bow.

The band was quite appreciative of the crowd Monday, the first to sell out on their current tour (hence the need to add a second show). They also adapted their approach for the Monday night crowd, with Martin directing the audience on when to stand up or sit down. It might sound odd, but with Ottawa’s reputation for being somewhat staid when it comes to concerts, it actually worked out quite well.

We had a chance to chat with drummer Jeff Burrows before the first show. Here is Part II of our chat.

Apt613: In terms of the recording process, you recorded The Ocean At The End in 2014, which was your first album in about ten years. I’m assuming that process was a little rusty or tricky to work out?

Jeff Burrows: What we did at the time was try to have writing sessions all within six months, so we’d fly to Australia to Jeff’s place, or we’d fly Jeff to Canada, we’d rent rehearsal halls and very expensive recording studios, and so on, and at the end of the day, we have that bill to pay, and it didn’t make sense. We’re approaching fifty years old – there’s no reason to spend this much money on an advertisement for a live show. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve written these songs, and the songs sound amazing, but we can do this on our own. We don’t need all of this bullshit. So there we were, back in Jeff’s garage, doing it like we did 26 years ago.

Except nowadays, you have access to tools like GarageBand and ProTools which are a lot cheaper than production back in those days.

And it usually comes down to our drum sound for us anyway, and our sound has always been very raw. You can set up your amps in a garage, and play guitar or bass or whatnot in a control room, that’s sort of what everyone does. For us, and I’m not discounting the beauty and the amazingness of a pro studio—there really is nothing like that experience—but it’s just not necessary for us anymore. We know what we can do, and Jeff and Stuart are both fine producers in their own right, so we can do it on our own. It’s something we’re quite proud of that we’re able to do.

We know what we can do, and Jeff and Stuart are both fine producers in their own right, so we can do it on our own. It’s something we’re quite proud of that we’re able to do.

Depending on the band’s sound, and especially for a band like yours, you want it less produced, with less overdubs, to help capture that live sound.

It sounds like we do live. When Jeff is doing his interviews sometimes, he mentions that he was chastised by both Stuart and I for not turning up the guitar, and we’d tell him to take out the keyboards out of these songs and ‘play the guitar man, that’s what you do!’ If you’re going to be the guitar hero, let’s fucking do it. That’s the beautiful part of it – it sounds even more like our live show that people have come to appreciate.

You have an interesting perspective, both from being in a band, and hosting on the radio. Lately, there’s been this resurgence of Canadian Rock, with the rise of The Glorious Sons, Monster Truck, and The Dirty Nil. There’s more emphasis on the ‘good old rock sound’. What is that like from your perspective, from the inside and the outside?

It’s fantastic! When I was in radio, that was just sort of starting out. The Arkells had a single out, Monster Truck had a single out, and now the Glorious Sons, and The Dirty Nil, etc. These are all amazing bands, and personally I love it. And the fact that we still get to be included in the scene, and we get to meet a lot of the younger bands, and it’s funny to hear them say “yeah, I remember hearing you guys, my uncle was playing your CD”. It’s very very cool, and god bless any band that’s doing well today in the rock genre.

Rock has taken a bit of a hit, but it seems to be on the uprise. Rock only died for the people who listened to popular radio, just like when hip hop took a back seat to many genres. It wasn’t dead, rest assured hip hop fans were still listening to it. It just wasn’t popular in the masses. When people say rock is making a resurgence, yes it is. And as a Canadian, it’s good to hear that much quality, like real rock bands that can really play, no bullshit on stage, no track – that’s one thing I hate of particular generations of rock bands (whether they be Canadian, American or whatever), the overuse of tracks running through the PA and backup vocals. Ugh. Come on man!

Growing up in the era, the quality of the Canadian music scene when you guys broke through, when you had bands like Our Lady Peace, I Mother Earth, and Moist. All those bands breaking through not just because they’re CanCon, but because they’re good enough to be on the charts, to me it was a watershed moment for the bands that came after.

I’m sure it helped. They took the torch and they continued on and did their thing, and like I said, it all keeps going, it’s just gotta be tough if you happen to hit one of those valleys as a rock band, and you’re not on the upswing.

In terms of what’s coming up, you have this tour with a whole bunch of dates back to back, after that, what’s the plans for the summer?

We have some festival dates coming, an Australian tour coming, and then maybe a few one-offs. We often get these very interesting offers to play with various symphony orchestras because back in 1999, we had our set at the time transposed for a 72-piece orchestra, and our friend Marc Ouellette from Montreal, he’s the composer and maestro. I’m hoping we get a few more of those, and then come new year, it’ll be plans for the big 2020 30th anniversary tour which boggles my mind, and the vinyl release of the entire catalog and the release of the new EP. It’s good to be busy!

And if ‘Black River’ is any indication, you guys should be busy for a while.

I can guarantee you, the next one, the one that we love that we’ve actually been playing live called ‘Way Way Down’, people are loving it even more than ‘Black River’, which is amazing. I couldn’t be more grateful, we’re in a great position.

The Tea Party will be playing their second show in as many months at Algonquin Commons Theatre on April 9 with Winnipeg’s The Proud Sons opening the show at 8pm. A few tickets ($45) remain on Ticketmaster or the Algonquin Commons Theatre site.

Part 1 of the interview with Jeff Burrows can be found in the preview of the band’s March show.